With the summer holidays upon us, the structure and routine that school imposes on the whole family goes out of the window. With all of the flexibility and fun that this freedom brings, it can also cause major disruption to children’s sleep by them going to bed late and sleeping in. Added to this lack of routine are problems like the increased summer temperature, light nights and jet-lag caused by long distance holidays – all making a good night’s sleep even harder.
Here is some advice for parents to help minimise overtired children over the summer holidays.
- Routine is the key to a good night’s sleep. Even if you want your children to be able go to bed later and sleep-in later in the morning, make it consistent. Have a regular wake up time throughout the summer holidays to help strengthen your child’s biological clock, rather than different bedtimes and waketimes each day.
- To help overcome the light evenings, make sure that you have thick curtains or blackout blinds in the children’s bedrooms to help block out the late evening and early morning sunshine which can disrupt sleep.
- Keep a similar bedtime routine to that of term time – have some pre-bedtime wind down time with a bath and story, even if this is at a later time than during school term. These pre-bedtime cues can be forgotten in the excitement of summer activities, but are very helpful for promoting sleep.
- To help deal with the increased heat of summer (especially with the recent heatwave) consider using a fan in the child’s bedroom (out of reach of the child), keep curtains closed in the daytime to prevent the room heating up by the sun, and give the children a cooler bath so that they don’t get too hot before bed.
- Exercise is really important for helping to promote good quality sleep. Try to encourage your children to get active outside every day, rather than spend all day playing Fortnite!
- To help children cope with the jet-lag caused by long distance flights, consider moving the child’s bedtime nearer the destination timezone by 15 minutes each night for a few days before your holiday. For example, if you are travelling west (e.g. to Florida), put the children to bed 15 minutes later than usual and let them get up 15 minutes later than usual, increasing this late bedtime and waking time by 15 minutes each day before your holiday – this way they will already be nearer the destination time zone before you even travel. If you are travelling east (e.g. to Greece) then put the children to bed early by 15 minutes and wake them 15 minutes earlier than normal before your holiday, increasing the difference over several days so that they are already going to bed nearer the destination time zone.
- Don’t worry too much if a “normal” routine isn’t adhered to every day. Even by only using a few of these tips, it may help ease the stress that a change of sleeping pattern can cause over the school summer holidays.
If you find that your children’s sleeping patterns have got wildly out of hand and you need more expert advice, contact Dr Browning at Trouble Sleeping. Dr Lindsay Browning studied neuroscience and insomnia at the University of Oxford and currently runs Trouble Sleeping where she helps people of all ages with their sleeping problems. www.troublesleeping.co.uk